Since 2004, the King of Pain has been dubbed “the toughest road test in the history of Glastonbury.”
Until later this month.
The Glastonbury River Runners (GRR), along with Open Doors Outdoors, welcome runners and walkers of all levels to join them for the first annual Queen of Wrath race, set to take place in South Glastonbury on Saturday, July 23.
The Queen of Wrath is the brainchild of a few of the original participants of the King of Pain – a grueling 10-mile race through the relentless hills of South Glastonbury on Super Bowl Sunday in February.
But instead of running in the dead of winter, the Queen arrives in the heart of the summer and tackles the challenging course in the opposite direction of the King.
“It was a terrible idea at the time and now we are making other people do it,” joked Jason Marshall, the Executive Director of the GRR and veteran runner of the King of Pain race.
In the summer of 2020, Marshall was marathon training and asked members of his running group which was worse — running the King of Pain route in the winter or summer and which direction of the course was harder?
Marshall said it became a game of “Would you rather?”
“It evolved from there to where we made it a fun run and we did it over the summer to see how people would respond to it,” said Marshall.
What began as the Royal Flush, a series of five runs in the most hilly parts of Glastonbury with around 10-15 runners, has now transformed into the queen of all races, which will make its official debut later this month.
Marshall and the others took the challenge to another level, but the founding father of the brutal race was Michael Keenan, the original creator of the King of Pain.
Nearly 18 years ago, Keenan designed a series of road races in South Glastonbury. It started out with a flat one-mile race in the Buttonball neighborhood and the races became progressively longer and more difficult, culminating in a 10-mile race.
“My hidden sadist emerged when it came time to map out the last race. I wanted to make sure that the race was an absolute monster, the toughest road race in the history of the town,” stated Keenan. “That meant it needed to be in the South Glastonbury orchards and it had to include a trip up Belltown Hill Road. It also needed the perfect name. As I was driving the course in my car, heading down Matson Hill Road, "King of Pain" by The Police suddenly came on the radio and the search for the race name was over.”
Keenan said the series ran for a few summers before, “our wives threatened to kill us for ruining the families' summers, so we shut it down.”
Five years later, Keenan contacted the GRR looking to revive the King, which made its triumphant return in February 2013.
The King’s race has steadily grown in popularity over the years with as many as 200 runners participating this past winter.
With the increasing popularity of the race, the GRR decided to combine forces with Open Doors Outdoors (ODO) — a non-profit organization which serves veterans, their families, and young people by taking them into the outdoors for reconnection, healthy activity, and healing — to officially bring the queen to Glastonbury.
Davey Edwards, the founder and director of ODO, along with ODO race director Chaz Koch have been assisting with the logistics and race day preparation.
Proceeds from the Queen of Wrath will benefit ODO.
“One of the things that the River Runners pride themselves on is supporting local non-profits that have a similar mindset in regards to health, healthiness, and comradery,” said Marshall. “Open Doors Outdoors is an organization that we’ve made donations to in the past and they are all about helping military veterans.”
The Queen of Wrath will start at 8 a.m. at Peter P Monaco Jr. Detachment 40/Marine Corps Building at 980 Chestnut Hill Road. Limited parking is available at the location with additional spaces available at Hopewell School, located .2 miles away from the start line.
The cost to register for the race is $40 and participants will receive a finisher medal, along with other goodies. Packet pickup will be at Hops on Hill (275 Dug Road) on Thursday and Friday (7/21 and 7/22) between 4-6 p.m.
Marshall said that, despite its name, The Queen of Wrath is beneficial for those training for a marathon or a novice who simply wants a challenge.
“Just literally crossing the finishing line in any capacity is an accomplishment,” added Marshall.
As for which is worse?
Marshall said factors like weather are always a factor, but ultimately admitted, “I’d say the Queen of Wrath is more challenging.”
For more information or to register for the race, visit runsignup.com/Race/CT/SouthGlastonbury/QueenofWrath10MileRoadRace
Visit www.glastonburyriverrunners.com or www.opendoorsoutdoors.org for additional information about the GRR and ODO.
Michael Keenan, the originator of the King of Pain race in South Glastonbury, crossing the line at the Firecracker 5k on June 25
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin